Don’t bring it home

By Bob Bickford

Pastoring a church is a 24/7 job, vocationally and emotionally. The cares and concerns of our congregation and for our congregants follow us out of hospital and board rooms, from the lunch table and the counseling session, they travel with us beyond the phone call and email, these concerns find lodging in our hearts. We feel their burdens and share their tears.

The same is true when we experience conflict with members in our congregation. Accusations and misunderstandings, unkind or hurtful words, personal betrayals, the castigation of our character and leadership, impugning our motives—these are wounds every pastor knows all too well.

The impact of these difficult experiences create emotional and spiritual wounds, these go deep, they endure, and heal slowly.

We bring these wounds home.

Our tempers may grow short, our conversations might be shallow, we might sit with a thousand yard blank stare missing conversational cues at family dinner time. We might seek refuge in retreat, isolation or mindless channel surfing.

Replanter, you will bring the weight of ministry conflict home, but that weight doesn’t have to crush our family.

Here are some ways you can guard your heart and your family when the weight and wounds of ministry are heavy.

Give your concerns to God: most think that the default response of a Pastor is to pray about everything, perhaps for some but not all. Replanter you’re just as fallen and finite as the person who has hurt you—you may want to strike back, you may want to leave. The Apostle Peter was given to reaction first, then repentance. Over time and by God’s grace he learned to pause and trust God with his concerns and was able to pen the following verse: Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Leave it at the Line: a Pastor I served with gave me sage advice. His regular commute involved traveling over a bridge to church and back home. He determined to stop thinking about the frustrations of ministry once he crossed the bridge and would pick them back up as he crossed back over then next day. Define a line where your thoughts will shift fully toward home and fully toward church.

Protect your Wife/Family: my wife (and kids) don’t need me to disclose every conflict and every difficult thing I’ve experienced with members of my church. In fact, they need me to guard them from such information. My wife and kids need to be able to love our church members and be loved by them. Only on rare occasions will I disclose conflicts or challenges that I’m experiencing with members—and only if there is a potential impact to her relationally.

A Band of Brothers: as a Replanter you’re part church planter and part established church pastor and yet neither of those fully understand your challenges and calling. Replanters need other Replanters who get what they are going through and dealing with. You need what one pastor mentor called “cussing buddies” with whom you can be totally honest and vulnerable, and who will reminded of the Gospel. We launched Replanter Roundtables for just that purpose. Find a Roundtable or consider launching one yourself.

Keep the Long View: the conflict you’re experiencing now will end, a new conflict will take its place. This cycle will repeat. You are being sanctified and shaped into Christlikeness, this conflict is part of that process. God has delivered you and will deliver you again, Paul had this perspective: He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 2 Corinthians 1:10

Published February 23, 2017

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Bob Bickford

Bob Bickford is a Replant Pastor in suburban St. Louis, serves as the Associate Director of Replant for the North American Mission Board and is the co-author of Am I a Replanter,  Pathways to Partnership and the Associational Replanting Guide. Follow Bob on twitter @bobick